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Last season, the biggest free-throw-related issue for North Carolina was just getting to the line. The Tar Heels only attempted a paltry 17.9 free throws per contest. That's highly unusual for a Roy Williams team that is schemed for working inside-out.
But last season was far from typical. Beyond James Michael McAdoo and his bench counterpart Brice Johnson, there was absolutely no inside game. There was very little penetration from the guards, either. It was all about the jump shot.
This season, the team has done a complete 180.
The Tar Heels' game is all inside now. McAdoo, Johnson and even freshman Kennedy Meeks have been able to score down low while the perimeter players have been attacking the basket as often as they put up jumpers.
Only 17 percent of all the Tar Heels' field-goal attempts have been threes this season compared to 30.7 percent in 2012-13.
While everyone would rather see some better outside shooting from UNC, at least it is getting to the charity stripe these days. That stops the clock, gives the uptempo team a rest, gets opponents in foul trouble and it's an easy shot to boot.
At least it should be.
The Tar Heels are averaging a whopping 31.7 free-throw attempts per game. That's good enough for fifth in the nation. Unfortunately, they only make 19.8 per contest on 62.4 percent shooting.
Abysmal is the only word for that.
Roy Williams' 2009-10 team was his previous worst at 65.3 percent. Before that season, only his first Carolina team (2003-04) shot less than 70 percent from the line—a percentage that hasn't been seen since his last title in 2009.
I don't think the free throws are a Williams problem. It's a modern basketball problem. You won't see Paige's free throws on any highlight reel even though he's buried 30 in a row. That's what kids seem to care about these days.
By the way, how many of you even knew Paige has made 30 free throws in a row? Exactly.
One way or another the Tar Heels have to figure this out. Some of my favorite suggestions have been hiring Speedo Guy for practices, putting students and diehard Tar Heel fans behind the goal to distract the shooters and making a high-stakes contest out the practice free throws to ramp up the pressure.
Or maybe Ol' Roy just needs to get into them like he did after the Texas game in which his Tar Heels shot 24 of 47 from the line in a three-point loss.
"I'm tired of talking about free throws," Williams said in the postgame presser, per GoHeelsTV. "You have to be tough enough to step up and make the daggum thing or go play soccer or something. Tell Anson (Dorrance) I'm not trying to rag on his sport but God almighty..."
If that's what he said to the media, one can only imagine the earful his players received behind closed doors. Since that game, the Tar Heels are 68 of 95 from the free-throw line. That's 71.6 percent, and that's where a team this talented should be.
Let's hope this lasts.